There's been a bit of hype around this amp in the low cost audio space.
I purchased it from https://www.china-hifi-audio.com/ for $708 + $372 shipping = $1080
The price above is also $60 off normal, by selecting EL34 tubes instead of KT88 to come with it.
There is a write up on china-hifi-audio.com from the owner stating the price on this amp will be increasing by tiers over the next year.
By Feb 16th 2021 it will be priced at $893 (vs the $708 I just paid for it)
I will be reviewing this amp in the context that with shipping, somebody can acquire this amp for under $1300.
Let's start with tubes. It arrived with the stock Willsenton 3x 6sn7, 2x 6sl7, and 4x EL34. (9x tubes total)
Right off the rip, the stock tubes are kinda meh (in comparison to other cheap tube alternatives).
I didn't let them burn in. I've read on other forums with burn in they are decent.
While I do generally like, and...
First and foremost I want to thank the Team at ES Lab for giving my self the chance to hear this headphone! While minimal, the overall presentation in person is stunningly polished. The grain on the wood storage box has both a nice feel and look to it, there's even a pair of wood wings for the outer face of the cup which make the headphone lighter.
Additionally there are two sets of pads, a "dark" pad with a fabric center and another set of pads without the fabric. For this review the Dark Pads were used as they removed some mid-range etch at the expense of just a little top end energy.
Overall Sound Signature
ES-1A has a slightly dark neutral sound with a rich harmonic presentation. I find it's sound stage to be cohesive with good precision, it's mid-range is rich with a little added body. High frequencies are a bit rolled off but don't sound lifeless or lacking extension.
In a world with so many options and ever decreasing levels of distortion one has to ask what separates the many acceptable solid state amplifiers from the truly great! There's a dozen designs that all push the lower limits of measurable distortion, all of which falls far below our human threshold of hearing.
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TLDR: Pi2AES kicks some serious ass. Get a nice PSU
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